New IU National Sports Journalism director: young writers have advantage over veterans in market

Teaching sports journalism at the big U these days would seem to be as valuable as starting classes on how to make a typewriter.

Journalism is a dying industry, we’re told. Read about it in the papers. What’s left of them, that is.

Malcolm Moran is here to say don’t believe everything you read and hear. And listen to this: He contends in many respects the market never has been better for young journalists. So are the opportunities to make an immediate impact.

Moran has seen it up close as the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society at the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism since 2006. And it isn’t just about young equaling cheaper.

“For the first time in the history of the industry, a 20-something journalist could have an advantage over a 40-something candidate,” Moran said.

In January, Moran will be molding those young writers as the new director of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana. He takes over a program launched in 2009 by my old Tribune boss Tim Franklin. Moran said there are 100 students affiliated with the NJSC. Those students recently participated in compiling the hiring report card for the Black Coaches and Administrators Association, yet another example of the opportunity to make an early impact.

Moran obviously has the credentials with distinguished stops at the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and USA Today. He has covered more college bowl games and Final Fours than he cares to count.

Now Moran is making his presence felt on the academic side during a time of great transition for the profession. Here’s my Q/A.

What makes you say 20-somethings have an advantage over 40-somethings?

For the first time in the history of the industry, a 20-something journalist could have an advantage over a 40-something candidate. Graduates as recent as the class of 2007 have told me they feel as though they missed out on having the new technology included in their course work. If a younger candidate can meet all the timeless expectations of the industry, and demonstrate that he or she can tell stories across platforms, the assumption is that the candidate will handle the technology more easily than the more experienced veteran. Media outlets are willing to sacrifice institutional memory – and the higher salaries that comes with that – for more cost-effective, techno-savvy candidates. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying it’s happening.

But what about the job cuts in the market. Aren’t there diminished opportunities?

Yes, there is a distribution problem on the print side, but think about how many outlets that didn’t exist 10 years ago. There are staffers from our program at Penn State who are working at the Big Ten Network. When I started, the Big Ten Network was on the drawing board. was a small core of writers and a lot of wire copy 10-15 years ago. Now look at it.

In the spring of 2009, it seemed like there was no movement. The students who were graduating had a hard time finding jobs. But now we’re seeing more opportunities.

At Penn State, we had a student, Mark Viera, who wound up covering a lot of the Sandusky story for the New York Times. If you opened up the paper, you would assume he was a staff writer. He and Pete Thamel won the APSE award for breaking news. Those kinds of places would rarely use a free lancer 10-15 years ago. Now they do. The opportunity to make a name for yourself now is much greater.

Why would somebody want a sports journalism program as opposed to a regular journalism program?

Part of it is the nature of the industry and the changes we’ve seen. It’s so much more fragmented. Can a journalism major succeed in sports? Of course. However, last year, the students at Penn State covered the men’s Final Four, the BCS game, and the Olympics. If you’re 22 and have that on your resume, you’re in good shape.

We had nine students at the Olympics in London. They produced the digital newsletter daily for the USOC. There were only 15 U.S. media outlets that had more people in London than we did.

You can’t replicate what we did in London in a classroom. When we first got there, they were, ‘OK, what do we do now?’ By the end, they were veterans. It was fun to watch them discover that they can do this.

How is teaching sports journalism different now than 10 years ago?

It’s different than even three or four years ago. I guarantee you the word ‘tweet’ was nowhere to be found in my syllabus. Now I do a class on tweeting and how to use it in an intelligent way. We stress the same standards apply to a 140-character tweet as they do to a 2,000 word story.

Tweeting wasn’t on our radar three years ago, but if you don’t do it now, you’re not doing yourself justice.

What is the key for a young writer to get a job today?

You have to be able to cross every platform. You have to be able to tell your story in more ways than you used to. You can’t show up with a notebook in your pocket and expect to be relevant. You have to market yourself by demonstrating you can work across all the platforms. If you can do that and retain your core values, then you’re marketable.

What are your hopes for NSJC?

I’d like to grow the program and identify people who can make a difference. I have relationships with people they have relationships with. They’ve done a lot in a short period of time. I hope to be able to build upon it.








New York Times’ Longman in center of storm after Jones’ article

Jere Longman is an accomplished writer and a veteran of many Olympics. Yet I’m fairly certain he will have a different set of memories from this year’s Games.

The New York Times reporter has been a target after writing a fairly scathing piece about LoLo Jones. He said she was more hype than substance.

He wrote:

 Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses.

The piece ran last Saturday. However, it exploded on Wednesday when a tearful Jones called the column unfair in a Today Show interview.

I sent Longman an email asking for his reaction to Jones’ reaction. He sent the following reply: “Thanks for writing. I’m going to let the column speak for itself.”

Several of Longman’s colleagues in the sportswriting fraternity stood behind Longman. I received this email from Christine Brennan of USA Today:

“There is no male journalist I know who has done more thoughtful, introspective and respectful work on women in sports than Jere Longman. He brought up some very valid points in his piece on Lolo Jones. It’s because of his time spent covering women and women’s sports issues that he writes with such authority on the subject.”

On Twitter, Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock called the story, “Good stuff.”

Runblogrun said: “A tough but honest piece by Jere Longman not hatchet job, LoLo Jones is everywhere.”

Yet predictably, most people sided with Jones and aimed their Twitter arrows at Longman.

CNN’s Roland Martin tweeted: “I just read Jere Longman’s piece on LoLo Jones in the nytimes. She’s right, it was a nasty, spiteful piece. The Times should be ashamed.”

Darren Rovell, in his first week at ESPN, defended Jones in a piece on

He writes:

If you think her name is cheapened by some strategy to be relevant, to constantly be in the news — most prominently the open talk about her virginity  — then shouldn’t she get some credit for the fact that it worked?

Credit for the fact that in this world of clutter, she got into the heads of marketers who, for whatever reason, wanted to attach their brands to her?

Credit to her creating her own relevancy. Is that cheap? Is that undeserving?

Rovell writes that Jones made you look at her when she appeared on TV. He is right there, but that also plays into Longman’s point.

As a casual fan of this kind of stuff, I was more than a bit surprised to learn Jones wasn’t the favorite in the hurdles. In fact, she received a ton of attention for someone who wasn’t even the top American contender in the event.

Longman makes valid arguments. However, people were turned off by the mean-spirited nature of the piece. He writes:

She has played into the persistent, demeaning notion that women are worthy as athletes only if they have sex appeal. And, too often, the news media have played right along with her.

In 2009, Jones posed nude for ESPN the Magazine. This year, she appeared on the cover of Outside magazine seeming to wear a bathing suit made of nothing but strategically placed ribbon. At the same time, she has proclaimed herself to be a 30-year-old virgin and a Christian. And oh, by the way, a big fan of Tim Tebow.

If there is a box to check off, Jones has checked it. Except for the small part about actually achieving Olympic success as a hurdler.

Harsh, yes. But this is big leagues. If you put yourself out there, you better be prepared to take some shots, especially if you don’t deliver.

Luckily for Longman, Jones finished fourth Tuesday. It served to validate his story.